Of course, winning anything is nice but it is particularly pleasing when you know that your fellow contestants were good. So I was totally thrilled to learn this week that I had won the Hackney Road Sculpture Prize. On Thursday the three short-listed candidates, of which I was one, were brought together at the art charity Eastside Educational Trust, to hear the results, meet the judges, Robert Suss, Simon de Friend and Chris Enticott as well as the Speaker of Hackney, Sade Etti. It was also a chance for us all to see each other’s work. It must have been a very hard decision for the judges; I thought Sam Neal’s design, Sedulus, and Katie Surridge’s Seeing Tree were both excellent.
It was Eastside that organised the competition for Regal Homes which is undertaking the redevelopment of the area in a project which will create 1,000 new local jobs and 200 new local homes as well as workshop spaces. The process started back June when artists were asked to offer a submission for a new and unique sculpture to be included in the regeneration plans.
The brief explained that the winning sculpture would be placed at the heart of the new development and would have the potential to become a future local landmark. It was to be no more than two metres high and have a footprint with no dimension greater than 1.5 metres and it should be on the theme of regeneration.
Approaching this challenge, I spent a lot of time thinking about regeneration, what it meant and what made it successful and I came up with three themes:
- That it needed to involve the whole community
- That it didn’t just happen at one point in time; it was a continuing process that could be likened to a living thing; and
- That it linked the past with the future.
As the rules allowed you to put in three entries, I decided to create designs round these themes. The community theme involved casts of hands of local residents; I designed a kind of plant cum flame thing in coloured ironwork but the design I liked the best of my three, and which the judges chose, was Regeneration takes the Past into the Future. It comprises 70 acrylic rods of different lengths set on a mirrored surface. I have never thought drawing was my strong suit so I was particularly pleased that the judges could visualise the idea from the sketch which I did, shown below.
I believe it will be striking. I like acrylic as a material. It is basically the same stuff from which shop fronts are often made. It’s tough and weatherproof. It can even be used for water features. Acrylic rods can be clear like glass, translucent or opaque. They can be coloured with varying degrees of transparency. I am using clear, blue, red and purple coloured transparent rods. I have had samples knocking round the place at home; I love the way they catch the light, pick up reflections from their surroundings and glow in the sunshine. Putting the rods on a mirrored surface will give the impression that they not only reach up to the future but also come out of the ground, representing the past. The way they are arranged also resembles something living a reed-bed perhaps or a thicket, signifying the continuing and developing nature of regeneration.
While I was delighted to win the cash prize, the real prize for me is that the work will be made. This is something I could never have done speculatively. The materials would have been too expensive; the finished work, which will make full use of the allowed dimensions, would have been too large and putting them together requires chemical welding so it’s not a job for the studio; I will use a specialist fabricator. It will be some time before the sculpture can be put in place; a lot has to happen; Regal Homes has to get planning permission, and the development has to be built. But I will be working with Eastwood and Regal Homes over the next year to ensure that my contribution is as good as it possibly can be. I am greatly looking forward to it and I very much hope the new residents will like the finished result.